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NPR Examines Global Rise Of Sickle Cell Anemia

NPR’s “Shots” blog and “Morning Edition” program examine the global rise of sickle cell anemia, noting, “[E]very year, hundreds of thousands of babies around the world are born with this inherited blood disorder. And the numbers are expected to climb.” According to the blog, “The number of sickle cell anemia cases is expected to increase about 30 percent globally by 2050, scientists said Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is most common, will be the hardest hit.” The blog continues, “To get a handle on the global scale of the problem, [Fred Piel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford,] and his colleagues used population data and information about the frequency of the sickle cell gene within different populations” and “calculated how that number will change in the future.”

“The two countries hardest hit will be Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Piel says,” according to “Shots,” which adds, “But other, less populous countries won’t be spared either. As more people from poorer countries migrate to developed countries, the cases of the disease will increase globally.” Though there is no cure for sickle cell anemia, “screening newborn babies, followed by vaccines and antibiotics, can prevent deadly complications, Piel says,” the blog writes, adding, “The [WHO] has long recognized the importance of sickle cell anemia as a global health issue. In 2006, the World Health Assembly called on countries to tackle the disease” (Chatterjee, 7/17).